Expected Council Action
In May, the Council is expected to receive briefings by the Special Representative and head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), Ghassan Salamé, and the chair of the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Olof Skoog (Sweden), followed by consultations. Also this month, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda will deliver her semi-annual briefing on recent developments concerning cases in Libya.
UNSMIL’s mandate expires on 15 September, and the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the sanctions committee expires on 15 November.
Key Recent Developments
Deep divisions remain between the parties in Libya. Despite the signing of the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA) on 17 December 2015, little progress has been achieved in establishing unified and legitimate institutions with the capacity to deliver basic services.
Salamé has been focusing on implementing a UN action plan that the Council endorsed in October 2017. This plan involves working in parallel to amend the LPA, organise a national conference, finalise a new constitution, and prepare for parliamentary and presidential elections. Briefing the Council on 21 March, Salamé shared his assessment that agreement on amendments to the LPA “have little chance of being passed” as Libya gets closer to elections. In consultations, he emphasised the lack of political will to engage on outstanding political issues among key decision-makers in Libya. In press elements agreed to at the meeting, Council members underlined that the status quo was unsustainable and urged Libyan leaders to “engage constructively in the dialogue process in a spirit of compromise”.
Despite the emphasis of Libyan stakeholders on the importance of holding elections, Salamé has repeatedly warned that before credible elections can be conducted, much work remains to be done. Of particular importance is legislation to regulate the holding of elections and a constitutional referendum. In addition to that, the commitment by the parties to accept the results is vital for their success.
Salamé has mentioned the need is to bring Libyans together around a common national narrative. In April, public consultations took place in Benghazi, Gharyan and Zuwara, the first of some thirty Libyan cities. This is part of a consultative process leading up to the holding of a national conference to be held this summer. Furthermore, reconciliation talks have taken place among municipal officials of rival towns, such as Zintan and Misrata, and Zintan and Zawiya.
The situation in the south continues to be precarious as inter-tribal tensions reinforce existing rivalries among supporters of the Libyan National Army (LNA) and those nominally affiliated with the Presidency Council of the Government of National Accord. In mid-April, Khalifa Haftar, who leads the LNA, had to be urgently hospitalised in Paris. At press time, his condition was unclear.
In order to address the multiplicity of armed actors in Libya, UNSMIL has started a broad dialogue to explore the conditions and means for their reintegration into civilian life or into state military and security institutions. Salamé is expected to present this strategy to the Council in May.
The situation of migrants and refugees in Libya continues to be critical as they continue to be arbitrarily detained in appalling conditions. According to UNHCR, in 2018, 7,540 persons have arrived to Italy by sea, and 1,342 refugees and asylum seekers have been evacuated to emergency transit locations from where their applications for refugee status are being processed by UNHCR. On 19 March, Italy impounded an NGO-operated migrant-rescue boat and detained its crew on human trafficking charges. While the ship was released on 16 April, two crew members continue to face criminal charges.
Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, whose extradition has been sought by the ICC, has been at large since he was set free by the Abu-Bakr al-Siddiq Brigade, a Zintan-based militia, in June 2017. In late March, a spokesperson declared that he was planning to run in the upcoming presidential elections. Former internal security chief Mohamed Khaled al-Tuhamy, allegedly responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in 2011 in Libya, remains at large as well. While the case against former Libyan intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi was found to be inadmissible before the Court in 2013, in light of domestic proceedings against him, Bensouda had expressed in the past her intention to review her office’s assessment of the al-Senussi case as new information becomes available.
On 15 August 2017, Pre-Trial Chamber I issued an arrest warrant for Mahmoud Mustafa Busayf Al-Werfalli, a commander participating in General Khalifa Haftar’s Operation Dignity in Benghazi. According to the warrant, Al-Werfalli appears to be directly responsible for the death of 33 persons in Benghazi or surrounding areas between June 2016 and July 2017, either by personally killing them or by ordering their execution. To date, Al-Werfalli has not been surrendered to the ICC in spite of reports that he turned himself in to the military police in eastern Libya after additional, extrajudicial executions became public in early 2018.
Human Rights-Related Developments
On 23 March, the HRC adopted without a vote resolution 37/41, which requests the High Commissioner to continue monitoring and reporting on human rights violations and abuses across Libya and to provide technical assistance and capacity-building to promote and protect human rights and prevent and ensure accountability for violations and abuses. The resolution also requests the High Commissioner to present an oral update on the situation of human rights in Libya and the implementation of the resolution at its 39th session in September and a report on the situation of human rights in Libya at its 40th session in March 2019, including on the implementation of technical assistance and capacity-building.
On 21 March, during its 37th session, the Human Rights Council (HRC) held an interactive dialogue to consider a report on the human rights situation in Libya, with particular focus on the protection of civilians, administration of justice, rule of law and transitional justice (A/HRC/37/46). The report concluded that armed groups, including those acting on behalf of the state, “continued to be primarily responsible for grave human rights violations and abuses in Libya”, and that “state institutions remained weak and often were unable or, in some cases, unwilling to ensure accountability for human rights violations or abuses or to end impunity”.
Key Issues and Options
The key issue for the Council is how it can contribute to compelling the parties to adhere to the UN Action Plan. Generally, the Council could discuss and devise ways in which Council members could support, collectively and bilaterally, the UN-led mediation efforts in Libya. At the appropriate time, and in support of Salamé’s work, they might consider a visiting mission to Libya and neighbouring countries to engage with key stakeholders to ensure progress in the implementation of the UN action plan.
Council members could organise an informal interactive dialogue with Bensouda to focus on options for following up ICC decisions on Libya (as the ICC is not a UN entity, the prosecutor is not allowed in Council consultations under current practice).
Council and Wider Dynamics
Overall, Council members are united in their support of Salamé’s mediation efforts. However, despite recent unanimous Council outcomes—including the Council’s endorsement of the UN action plan and a presidential statement ahead of the 17 December 2017 anniversary of the LPA—Council members have often had different sensitivities regarding the way forward to achieve a solution.
The semi-annual briefings by Bensouda on Libya have had limited impact, given divisions among Council members on whether to take action to support the implementation of ICC decisions. Council members have often reverted to general exhortations rather than addressing non-compliance in a more forceful and effective way.
The UK is the penholder on Libya, and Sweden chairs the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee.
UN DOCUMENTS ON LIBYA
|Security Council Resolutions|
|5 October 2017 S/RES/2380||This renewed the authorisation for member states to inspect vessels on the high seas off the coast of Libya that they have reasonable grounds to suspect are being used for migrant smuggling or human trafficking.|
|14 September 2017 S/RES/2376||This extended UNSMIL’s mandate until 15 September 2018.|
|29 June 2017 S/RES/2362||This was a resolution renewing the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee and the measures regarding attempts to illicitly export oil from Libya.|
|26 February 2011 S/RES/1970||This resolution referred the situation in Libya to the ICC, imposed an arms embargo and targeted sanctions (assets freeze and travel ban) and established a sanctions committee.|
|12 February 2018 S/2018/140||This a report on UNSMIL.|
|Security Council Meeting Record|
|21 March 2018 S/PV.8211||This was a briefing by Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of UNSMIL Ghassan Salamé, in which he presented the Secretary-General’s latest report on Libya.|